Zenon — I am 57 years old, and a day of my life since I was 16 has never gone by without some male person offering up some form of disrespectful behavior, unwanted scrutiny or overt aggression.
Just this morning, on my way to get coffee, a young man about 25 years old, was sitting at a bus stop, and as I passed he said “I’d f*ck you” with a big smile on his face, apparently thinking I had my earbuds on and couldn’t hear him,
I stopped, took off my earbuds, turned to him and said “Excuse me?” His face froze. I maintained eye contact and said, “I invite you to re-think how you speak to grownups, son.” I saw how he must have looked when he was a child and did something wrong. He mumbled “Sorry” — I said “apology accepted, thank you” and kept walking.
Since being assaulted in my first year of college I have never dressed or behaved to gain attention from anyone — thinking that would protect me from further assault. It doesn’t. Neither does age or money or marital status.
It is a whole different class of male privilege, having nothing to do with money: Some men behave as if they believe that women are nothing more than scenery or a resource for them to exploit, in whatever way they see fit.
They are everywhere. You know them. They are your friends and neighbors and co-workers. Thing is, they look exactly like the “good guys” — and that is why many women chose to be cautious with all men — it’s impossible to tell the difference.
It should not be our responsibility to run this equation every time some man comes within 10' of us…but it is, in part because so few MEN stand up for women. So few MEN (even the “empathetic” and “evolved” ones) will risk their own status in the eyes of other men by standing up for women — and so men only hear women expressing upset, so they can discount it as “women’s issues” and move on.
Why should women be expected to put our lives and well-being at risk, just to be sure some d*ckhead with catcall turrets doesn’t have a hissy fit?
Why should women be expected to be kind, fair, compassionate, compliant, sweet decorations for men’s worlds…..when so many men say and do whatever they please, without so much as being called out by other men for their disrespectful behavior?
I’ve known some ardent feminists, and more often than not, they are compassionate about the fact that men are living through the same fundamental shifts in our culture that we are. As usual, the media turned it into “the battle of the sexes” in the 70s…and when women started speaking our minds and when we didn’t just cave in to men’s authority, we were dubbed “ball busters”
The dynamics are like any hatred of the “other.” It’s only a matter of degree.
I invite you to think how you would engage the world if you knew that 60–70% of the people in it could overpower you physically if they chose to, when you least expect it; that your physical well-being and safety relies on something as fragile as random men’s mood on any given day.
This is not hyperbole. It is being a woman in the world.